This Day in History: 1864-04-12

Rebel troops commanded by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest commit the Fort Pillow Massacre, murdering several hundred Union soldiers, the vast majority of whom were Black, after they had already surrendered. Forrest, who after the war become the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, initially described a river as “dyed with the blood of the slaughtered for 200 yards,” and his field commander bragged that his men had taught “the mongrel garrison” a memorable lesson; later, Forrest and his staff later either denied there was a massacre or blamed it on the garrison itself. The Fort Pillow affair became a target of Southern revisionists, and many reference works balk at deeming the battle a massacre. But recent accounts drawn from primary sources conclude emphatically that a massacre did indeed transpire, and that Forrest’s field officers did little to stop it, for which Forrest himself bears the ultimate responsibility. Learn more here and here.